Top bosses in the Middle East are less confident than they were a year ago, but are still more optimistic than their counterparts in any other part of the world.
That was the main conclusion reached by a survey of the region's chief executives by the international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and announced at the World Economic Forum in Jordan yesterday.
PwC polled 32 executives in eight Middle East countries to find that 53 per cent are very confident about prospects for business and economic growth over the next 12 months.
But many are also worried about the effects on their businesses from regional political and social problems. Some 41 per cent said this was their main concern in the year ahead, although more were concerned about over-regulation (75 per cent) and the shortage of skilled employees (69 per cent).
Overall, regional corporate chiefs are more positive by a big margin about prospects than the rest of the world, where the proportion was only 36 per cent, but slightly less optimistic than they were last year, when the survey found 60 per cent were positive.
Hani Ashkar, the Middle East deals leader at PwC, said: "The high confidence percentage of Middle East CEOs led to a positive outlook for the economy. Compared to their global counterparts, chief executives in the region are expecting a major employment headcount increase with over two thirds expecting a 5 per cent or more rise."
PwC's report said: "Domestic markets present a more open and competitive environment now than in the past. Some 44 per cent of Middle East CEOs see organic domestic growth as a primary driver in 2013. Alternatively, 25 per cent view growth stemming from new operations in foreign markets and 13 per cent from new mergers and acquisitions (M&A), joint ventures or strategic alliances."
It also found that many chief executives in the region are positioning their companies to take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets in Asia and Africa. A quarter of those polled have set their sights on these areas in what PwC calls a "go abroad strategy".
In terms of investment priorities, 38 per cent of regional bosses count M&A and strategic alliances as most important for their companies in the coming year. A massive 73 per cent target those deals and alliances in their own region, followed by 36 per cent for Africa, 27 per cent for South East Asia, and also 27 per cent for western Europe.